I was looking for the kid who was all alone. The one with no hand to hold. The one who, when he looked up, saw no one. I was going to be there for him. At least for that day, he was going to be my son.
But I never found that kid.
My son’s class was on a field trip. This was a different kind of field trip. It was one where dads were supposed to come. There was going to be fishing, hiking and learning about wild animals. It was going to be the kind of stuff kids are supposed to do with their dads. The kind of stuff that scared me to death when I was a kid.
I grew up on Creekwood Drive in a home that was led by a single mother. It was the same situation in the house just across from us on Creekwood Drive. And the house next to that one. And several more on that street. I once heard someone call Creekwood Drive Divorce Court.
There weren’t a whole lot of father and son field trips on that street.
So when I showed up with my own son for his field trip, I thought about those days on Creekwood Drive. That’s why I was looking for the kid who didn’t have a dad around. In a way, it was like I was looking for a younger version of myself. But like I said, I never found that kid.
That’s because his dad was with him.
A man was giving us instructions for fishing. He was telling us the boundaries we should stay in and he was making sure that we all had a pole and some bait. When he was done talking, every kid headed for the shore with a fishing pole, a bucket of bait and a father.
When we were done, the man who gave us the instructions was confused. He told one of the teachers that he and his staff usually have to spend the whole time helping kids fish. But not this time. That’s because every kid had a father there with him. So, with nothing else to do, the man just went fishing with all the rest of us.
When we were all done, I spoke to my kid’s teacher. I wanted to know if this kind of thing was normal. Did they always have so many dads show up for field trips? The teacher wasn’t nearly as amazed as I was. That’s because this kind of thing really was normal.
The next day, my son had a soccer game. I was busy coaching my other son so I got to the game just before the scheduled start time. I noticed something was wrong. I didn’t see any colors other than the maroon jerseys of my son’s team. The other team didn’t show up.
My son’s coach made the long walk across the field to give us the news. I was expecting a see you next week, thanks for coming out anyway speech. Instead, he had an idea for another game.
“If any of you dads would like to play, the boys are up for a challenge.”
So we spent the next hour playing our sons in soccer.
One dad was wearing flip flops. One dad looked like he belonged on the Brazilian National Team. One dad looked more like he belonged on the Brazilian National Spelling Bee Team. That one was me. But we all played. And we all had fun.
The dads played hard. The kids played even harder. The moms took pictures from the sidelines. The older brothers and sisters cheered and tried not to make fun of that guy from the Brazilian National Spelling Bee Team.
There are a lot of deadbeat dads around. But, for one weekend, I didn’t see any of that. Instead, I saw a bunch of dads who took off of work and missed out on a few hours of sleep to make it to a field trip. And I saw dads who were willing to get hot, sweaty, and maybe even look a little foolish just so their son could play a soccer game.
The media doesn’t paint fathers in a very good light. Homer Simpson is probably our best representative. We are usually seen as indecisive slobs who are growing up slower than our own children.
I didn’t see any of that last weekend. I just saw dads being dads. None of us are perfect. But we were there. And that’s a big part of what it means to be a dad. Just being there. Engaged. Sacrificing. Loving. Fishing. Running.
I started my weekend off by looking for a nervous kid who was all alone.
I’m so glad that my search came up empty.
Maybe, just maybe, that kid isn’t as easy to find as the one who lived on Creekwood Drive.